Sheku Bayoh inquiry: Hearing told drivers saw man 'walking with purpose' with knife in hand

An inquiry investigating the death of a black man after he was restrained by police officers has been told of the moment drivers called emergency services after seeing a man with a knife in his hand.

Sheku Bayoh died on Sunday, May 3, 2015 after he was detained by officers in Kirkcaldy, Fife.

Lord Bracadale is hearing evidence in Edinburgh as part of an inquiry into the death.

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Aamer Anwar and Sheku Bayoh's family - Kadijatu Johnson and Adie Johnson - outside the Scottish Police Authority building at Pacific Quay. Picture: John Devlin
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The inquiry heard Alan Pearson was driving with his wife in his car when Mr Bayoh was first seen in Templehall Avenue in the Hayfield area of Kirkcaldy around 7am.

“She saw a man walking along the street with what appeared to be a knife in his hand,” he told the inquiry’s senior counsel, Angela Grahame, QC.

“She says to me ‘that guy’s got a knife’ and I thought ‘don’t be daft, it’s 7am on Sunday morning’.”

After Mr Pearson dropped his wife off at his sister-in-law’s house, he then started to make his way home, and in Hayfield Place saw the man look like he was trying to stop a passing taxi. Mr Pearson said it looked like the man had banged on the car’s roof.

“Once the taxi sped off, he did what anybody would do, he turned to face the taxi and face me, although not looking at me,” he said.

“When he turned around he put his hands out, palms up, that’s when I saw what looked like a knife in his right hand.”

Mr Pearson then turned around and drove in a different direction.

He described the knife as “maybe six or seven inches” long, but when he was shown a knife on a container at the Capital House inquiry, Mr Pearson told inquiry he could not recognise the blade being used as evidence, and that he only saw it from a distance.

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The witness told the inquiry he was not scared. He added: “It’s not as if he was coming towards my car, he was just standing there.”

Mr Pearson said he warned another driver, and then in Hendry Road called 999 and told the call handler: “There’s a guy in the middle of the street with a knife in his hands.”

In his brief telephone call with the 999 operator, Mr Pearson was told a blade size.

“I never told the handler the size of the knife at the time,” Mr Pearson told the inquiry. “The call handler says ‘nine-inch blade’, but I never said the size of the knife.”

Dashcam and mobile phone footage was played in the court, which showed Mr Bayoh walking in the street with vehicles turning around in front on him.

Simon Rowe, a taxi driver, said he saw Mr Bayoh carrying a knife, and said he saw him from a distance of about 20 metres.

He told Ms Grahame the 31-year-old was “walking with purpose”.

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“[He was] not strolling, [it was] like he had somewhere to be or somewhere to go, is the best way to describe it,” he said.

Mr Rowe said he then phoned 101 from the hands-free of his taxi to tell them he had seen a man with a “big kitchen knife”.

The inquiry, before Lord Bracadale, continues.